Manipulating the human microbiome appears to be an effective approach for treating a range of inflammatory, metabolic, and neurodegenerative diseases, among them inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease. Yet the promise of this approach has been hindered by significant barriers in drug development, which manufacturers must strategically address to successfully drive adoption.
Current clinical research in microbiome-based therapies focuses mainly on manipulating bacteria in the gut, the most abundant and diverse microbial community in humans, which has a direct impact on metabolism, immunity, and behavior. Probiotic therapies, which involve administering beneficial bacteria to patients to restore healthy microbial function, are so far the most advanced type of microbiome-altering therapy.
Only one microbiome-based therapy — fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) — is currently available to patients. It uses bacteria from the fecal matter of healthy individuals to treat patients with recurring infections of Clostridioides difficile (C. diff), a type of bacteria that can cause symptoms ranging from diarrhea to life-threatening inflammation of the colon (colitis).